In October of 2012, a tropical storm gathered strength while in the Caribbean Sea, forming into a hurricane. The storm continued to grow in both intensity and size, reaching a diameter of over nine hundred miles. After sweeping across the islands of the Caribbean and Bermuda, it traveled up the eastern coast of the United States before making landfall in New Jersey. With 80-mile per hour sustained winds and 100-mile per hour gusts, it dropped almost 12 inches of rain at its peak. For many of the coastal communities in the state, the most damage was caused by the storm surge. Storm surge is a rise in sea levels caused by atmospheric pressure changes. The storm surge at high tide for many New Jersey communities was 14 feet above sea level. After the storm ended, the cleanup would cost almost $40 billion dollars (via Wikipedia). Almost six years later, the rebuilding in my home state continues. Much of this was on my mind as I traveled to visit a historic location still struggling with the after-effects of the superstorm.
Sandy Hook is a barrier split (essentially, a strip of sand) that extends from the New Jersey mainland into the Atlantic Ocean and New York Bay. It has long been a navigational landmark for ships approaching New York harbor, and it is home to the oldest lighthouse in the United States. Because of its location, it has also had a significant role as an important position in the defense of New York City. Indeed, a military base in Sandy Hook, Fort Hancock, was tasked with defending against hostile ships attempting to invade New York. As times changed and the largest military threat was nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, Sandy Hook housed a battery of missiles which would be tasked with shooting Soviet weapons out of the sky before they could reach their target. Decommissioned as a base in 1974, Sandy Hook is now a national park, overseen by the National Park Service. Part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook is open to the public. On an overcast day in late July, I set off to learn more about this historic site. Along the way, I saw the ways that the park continues to attempt to recover from the hurricane of 2012.
Sandy Hook was an eye-opening trip. I was able to climb the oldest lighthouse in America, visited a historic military base, and also saw the ways that my home state continues to try to recover from a storm that many outside of New Jersey have long since forgotten. Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook is open every day from 5:00 am until 9:00 pm. The park itself is free, but during the summer season there is a $15 parking fee per vehicle (from November 1 until March 31, parking is free). If you are in northern New Jersey, I would highly encourage a visit to this historic park.
Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!